How Can Australia Return To Its Creative Heyday?

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A question I think any marketer should be able to answer is what is your favourite ad or piece of work you’ve seen?   

A former boss once told me “it’s all about the work, John” and he believes good marketers should always be able to point out good work if they really understand the profession they’re signed up to.  

 I will answer my own question shortly, but in the meantime let me ask how good is our ‘work’ right now? 

Traditionally our industry punches well above its weight, and we have a great reputation as a result. Australia has had a strong track record of developing its own creative talent and our reputation has attracted inflows of international talent from overseas, particularly the UK; after all, everyone knows a Sydney winter trumps a UK one. 

But, dare I say I think we are losing momentum. There are several concerning forces at work. I fear they are making the industry more conservative. I fear it’s harder for engaging creative to see the light of day.  

I fear it’s harder for engaging creative to see the light of day.

Though above all else, I fear a generation of young marketers may miss out on understanding the part great creative ideas play in delivering business outcomes. 

So, what’s going on? Simply put, we’ve become obsessed with technology. We have become myopic about it. It has become the beast we serve instead of the beast that serves us. It has become all-absorbing and is swamping the available bandwidth of marketers. Marketers struggle to keep up and are forever chasing their own tails on trying to capitalise on it. We are bombarded with ‘advise & solutions’ that promises an impossible nirvana that never materialises. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no technophobe. Technology has an important role to play but it’s an enabler, not the solution. 

 It has become the beast we serve instead of the beast that serves us.

Marketers attention has shifted to where the tech emphasis lies, which is downstream in the funnel. This has the knock-on effect of focusing efforts toward conversion and attribution rather than awareness, relevancy, trust and connection. What makes this worse is that short-termism and the constant need to deliver evidence of business return locks us into this position at the pointy end of the customer journey. 

The traditional creative model is, of course, being threatened by this. We now talk about being content marketers instead of creative marketers. I sense that the explosion of inventory driven by online channels has created a compelling need to feed this insatiable beast no matter what the quality, relevance or indeed, results. Marketers can now go anywhere for content and they do. Price, not value is increasingly becoming the deciding factor.  

The solution must be balanced. Don’t ignore the role great creativity can play from the beginning of the funnel to the end. Don’t ignore the evidence from reputable sources such as Binet & Field and Ehrenberg Bass that emotional engagement and emotional affinity have a strong impact on driving saliency and brand sales. Remember the role that the fundamentals such as working with human truths, identifying insights and forming powerful brand ideas can have when they come together in delivering great creative that connects your brand with your customers. A great idea is media neutral and will be translatable throughout the funnel, regardless of whether its 30 sec spot or a 2-second thumb scroll. Lastly, make sure you have these skills and get the right balance of partners in the room who can help you. You’ll find that they will enable you to take control of what tech and data insights can offer us. They will put you in the driving seat, not the other way around. Be brutal about this. 

So, what’s my favourite creative right now?  A few clues; the work has been in market for nearly two years (so it must be working), I’ve seen the creative idea across several channels (so the idea must work up and down the customer journey) and it’s one of the few creatives around today that has left a lump in my throat (so it must connect emotionally.)  

It’s Colourbond’s 50-year anniversary ad.  

If a brand from a relatively low-interest commodity category can drive meaning, trust and relevancy by putting the brand at the heart of what it means to be Australian in such a visually and aurally arresting way then there is hope for us all.   

I’m confident that we, advertisers and partners together, can get back to punching well above our weight on creativity once again. 

John Broome will be speaking at Advertising Week APAC in Sydney, taking place July 31 – August 2. For more featured speakers and to learn more, click here.

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